I'm a 49-year-old beginner -- at the guitar, that is. I own a Les Paul Studio, a Fender Stratocaster Kenny Wayne Shepherd model (I like the big frets) a Line 6 tube amp and a few effects pedals. Have any advice for me? -- William "Tom" Branch
Well, hell, son -- jam till ya blowup is always the best route. Absorb all things Chuck Berry, Rolling Stones, Yardbirds, Kinks, Cream, Beck, SRV, EVH, Motown, James Brown, Booker T and the MGs, etc., etc., etc., play along till ya can't stand it no mo, then jam some more! Feel what these masters are saying and doing, and go for that soulful, emotional, uppity blackness. Smart practice/jamming is the key. Think groove and feel at all times, and find those magic notes that aren't legal. DO NOT LEARN SCALES! Make up your own. Improvise, adapt, overwhelm. Semitones are sonic sex.
How much overdubbing or post-studio guitar corrections were done on the Double Live Gonzo album, especially on songs such as "Hibernation"?
The magic that is "Hibernation" is 100 percent live. Truly a moment in time. Killer band. The only overdub on the entire DLG LP was my re-doing the bass on "Baby Please Don't Go," due to technical distortions on the original bass track. Then I screamed a few new vocal yelps too. That's it.
When did you seriously start writing music? And do you still sit down to practice guitar or do you sit and just play? How many hours per day of practice do you recommend?
I have always played and jammed like a man possessed, and my own songs simply flowed nonstop from the very beginning as early as 1960 onward. I still jam constantly, which, to my way of thinking, is the ultimate practice, because it is free form and purely uninhibited and defiant, at least the way I jam it is. Some days I hammer away for hours, some days just a few minutes. I live such an uppity, thrilling adventurous lifestyle, that killer new licks, guitar theme lines and song patterns blow out of me like fire from on high. It is fascinating, more now than ever.
What is more pertinent when attempting to harness feedback from the Byrdlands: amp volume or position in relation to the amp?
It is a ballet of sonic balance 'twixt the two elements. I discovered way back in 1965 with my first Byrdland that it is all about tone, the threshold of breakaway volume and my physical location to the speakers. Every time is like Lewis and Clark of sonic bombast.
When selecting a guitar, be it a Byrdland, Les Paul or PRS, what do you look for? Meaning playability, what it sounds like acoustically, through an amp, etc.
To me, it is all about an intimate feel with the instrument, especially the neck. I cannot tell you what my favorite neck dimensions are, because they are all different and vitally intriguing and inspiring unto themselves, which makes me touch the instrument differently and therefore seek and create different sounds, tones and actual licks. It is hopelessly subjective and personal and I crave every challenging moment of it.
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Photo: James & Maryln Brown